Printing companies refocus in response to digital age

By Eric Schwartzberg,

Staff Writer

2:25 AM Sunday, January 29, 2012

HAMILTON — For Ron Sobran, keeping Hamilton Graphics Printing afloat during the rapidly changing nature of the printing business continues to be quite a challenge.

“There’s a lot of capacity and the competition is just fierce right now,” he said. “There’s 10 other shops that can do the work that you do. You just need to do it better, faster and cheaper.”

The digital age has made a significant dent in the company’s smaller jobs such as business cards, postcards and brochures during the past three or four years.

“You’re always going to have those big mail jobs and marketing,” he said. “What’s cutting into our trade right now is the Internet printers. Their jobs are ganged with 20 other jobs and that lowers the cost.”

The past two years have been particularly difficult.

“People are looking for other avenues to save money on printing,” he said. “It just seems like people are cutting back more and there’s so much capacity out there with other printers that they’re just cutting each other’s throats for what work is available right now.”

Hamilton Graphics offers digital quick print services for smaller projected and wide format digital printing for poster-size projects. The company’s die-cutting capabilities allow it to create pocket folders, file folders and other items with irregular shapes in-house.

Sobran bought the company in 2001 from Ohio Casualty, which had started the business on the corner of Dayton and Third streets in 1993, he said.

“They were going to close the printing department and another manager and I bought it from them,” he said.

The economic downturn and losing Ohio Casualty’s lucrative contract when the company was bought out led Hamilton Graphics Printing to shed itself of five employees in the past three years. Sobran credits the remaining seven employees for sticking with the company through pay cuts and temporary layoffs.

Sobran said he realizes staying competitive in today’s market means investing in technology. Hamilton Graphics did so in 1998 with a $60,000 digital press that helps the company make $120,000 a year, on average.

Several other new digital printers have been useful for printing items in wide format.

Hamilton Graphics customers include nonprofits, such as Greater Miami Valley YMCA, Shared Harvest, Cincinnati YMCA, as well as businesses, such as Kaivac Cleaning Systems.

Bob Robinson Sr., Kaivac’s president and CEO, said the business is a welcome part of Hamilton’s south side.

“He does wonderful work,” said Robinson, who does his printing via Hamilton Graphics. “He’s got a good creative team. Not only does he have a great price, he can help you out with his creative team.”

Sobran said the fact that the business has made it beyond the 10-year mark is “amazing.”

“Our employees made that possible,” he said. “We could cut back and gear down and that’s kept us going. You work with somebody for 10 years, they’re more friends than just employees. They’re family.”

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